OBJECTIVES: Most previous studies on the association between moisture or mold problems in the home and respiratory symptoms in children were cross-sectional and based on self-reported exposure. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of objectively observed moisture damage and visible mold in the homes on early-life respiratory morbidity and atopic sensitization in a birth cohort.

METHODS: Building inspection was performed by building engineers in the homes of 396 children, and the children were followed up with questionnaires from birth to the age of 18 months. Specific immunoglobulin E levels were measured at the age of 1 year.

RESULTS: Doctor-diagnosed wheezing was associated with the severity of moisture damage in the kitchen and with visible mold in the main living area and especially in the bedroom of the child. The risk for parent-reported wheezing apart from cold increased with the severity of moisture damage in the kitchen. Moisture damage in the bathrooms or other interior spaces had no significant association with wheezing. No significant associations were observed for other end points, such as cough, or respiratory infections. There was a suggestion for an increased risk for sensitization to cat dander linked with moisture and mold exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: This birth-cohort study supports previous observations that moisture mold problems in the kitchen and in the main living area increase the risk for wheezing in early childhood. The results underline the importance of assessing separately the health effects of moisture and mold problems in different areas of the home.

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